Posts Tagged ‘pilates’

Easing New Mums back into Exercise – #fit4feb

February 17, 2014

Dr. Joanna Helcké is an award winning expert in pregnancy and postnatal fitness and is the creator of the UK’s first ever online pregnancy and postnatal fitness system. She is regularly quoted as a pregnancy and postnatal fitness expert in the national media. www.joannahelcke.com 

Joanna HelckeThe What’s on 4 Me team asks Dr Joanna Helcké how new mums should ease themselves safely back into exercise…

What’s on 4 Me: In your expertise, what are some realistic expectations about when it’s safe to begin exercise? How long does it really take? And will most women be able to bounce back to their former selves?

Joanna Helcké: In terms of when it’s safe to start exercising post pregnancy, the general guidelines are to wait until you have had your 6 week postnatal check up with the GP and been given the green light to start up exercising again. Having said this, 6 weeks is the absolute minimum, and if someone has had a caesarean section then she will need to wait at least 8-10 weeks and use her judgement. In other words, if the scar has not healed properly and is still painful then starting exercise would be unwise. Likewise, water-based exercise is an excellent choice when you’ve had a baby, because it is low impact, but without wishing to make anyone feel squeamish, it is important to wait for everything to have healed up before diving into the local pool.

Once new mums have received the go-ahead from their GPs this should not be taken as licence to throw themselves into hard core, high impact exercise. Post pregnancy exercise needs to remain low impact – that means no running, jogging, jumping, skipping or – heaven forbid – trampolining! – for the first 6 months of the postnatal period. This is partly so as to look after the pelvic floor which – let’s face it – has had a tough time in pregnancy and labour, and also to protect against injury or already vulnerable ligaments, joints, and back. Having said this, I am most certainly not advocating sitting around doing nothing – with a good dose of imagination there are so many activities which are perfectly safe and will get new mums, fit, health and boosting the metabolism.

In terms of new mums bouncing back to their former selves, it’s very much a question of a quick-fix versus a measured, sustainable approach, or a super-complicated diet plan versus a healthy eating plan that is quick and easy to follow for busy mums. Quick fixes are invariable so gruelling that nobody can actually stick to them for any length of time, and complicated diets are just too much hard work for busy working mums. The trick is, therefore, to find ways of eating healthily that are enjoyable and take no time at all. It can be done!

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What’s on 4 Me: What’s your advice about easing back into your pre-pregnancy fitness routine? How much does exercise and diet really affect breastfeeding? 

Joanna Helcké: When I am helping people regain their pre-pregnancy figure, I never focus on the usual “going on a diet” approach, as this implies a short term measure which is, in my opinion, liable to be unsustainable. It is also inappropriate, given the demands of breastfeeding and looking after a little baby. In view of this I have a three-pronged system for beating the “baby bulge”: specialist, post-pregnancy, abdominal work to strengthen and flatten the abdominals, which have been stretched and weakened in pregnancy; a weekly exercise “portfolio” which is specifically designed to kick-start the metabolism whilst still being safe for the post natal period (low impact interval training, and the introduction of appropriate resistance work to build muscle, which gets the body burning lots of calories) and which is also baby-friendly i.e. no need to find childcare as this stops new mums from sticking to their fitness regime; and last but certainly not least, analysing people’s nutritional intake to ensure that it is balanced and healthy. With regard to the latter, I would suggest that for most post natal women, simply making sure that they get the correct balance and type of protein, carbohydrates, fat, dairy, fruit and vegetables – combined with the right sort of exercise – is enough to see the baby weight come off at a steady and healthy rate, without feeling hungry, tired and without having to count calories, points or swig food replacement shakes.

It is often suggested that vigorous exercise has a detrimental effect on the production of breast milk and can interfere with the success of breastfeeding but reviews of research would seem to indicate that this is not that case and that exercising has no adverse effects when it comes to breastfeeding. Having said this, it is, of course even more important to maintain excellent levels of fluid intake if you are both breastfeeding and exercising. On a personal note, I breastfed all three of my boys – the youngest until the day before his third birthday – and I also exercised regularly. Having clocked up a total of 5 years’ worth of breastfeeding and exercising I had to conclude that it had no negative impact in my case!

With regard to diet and breastfeeding, mums should remember that their babies are gaining so much goodness from them when breastfeeding. This should provide an enormous incentive to eat healthily, so that they are giving their babies the best possible start in life. The added bonus is that new mums will also be getting all the health benefits of this nutrient-rich food. Early motherhood is a tiring experience that requires huge reserves of energy (and patience!) – going on a restrictive diet is unhelpful and likely to leave mums deficient in certain nutrients, iron being a frequent problem.

What’s on 4 Me: Is it true that breastfeeding helps you lose weight fast? Can diet and exercise too soon mess up the breast milk somehow, ie, make it less nutritious?

Joanna Helcké: If a newborn baby is fully breastfed then a new mum will be burning an extra 400-500kcal per day but trying to exploit this in an attempt to shed the baby weight would leave her feeling depleted and exhausted. If breastfeeding mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet and combine this with moderate exercise, such as brisk buggy walking incorporating intervals of faster and slower walking, this is a very good basis for beginning to lose the baby weight in a manageable and sustainable manner.

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Getting yourself fit for birth – #fit4feb

February 15, 2014

Dr. Joanna Helcké is an award winning expert in pregnancy and postnatal fitness and is the creator of the UK’s first ever online pregnancy and postnatal fitness system. She is regularly quoted as a pregnancy and postnatal fitness expert in the national media. www.joannahelcke.com 

Joanna HelckeFalling pregnant for the first time is often a time when you reassess your lifestyle, health and fitness. There is the sudden realisation that your body is busy creating a tiny human being, one that is entirely dependent on you for its development and growth. What a responsibility this can feel. Having said this, it’s the ideal opportunity to put in place a healthy lifestyle both in terms of eating and fitness. Whilst it is important not to go on a major fitness drive on discovering that you are expecting, putting in place an appropriate “pregnancy fitness portfolio” can really help you have a more positive pregnancy with fewer aches and pains, an easier labour and a speedier recovery during the postnatal period.

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Whilst there’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” fitness regime for your pregnancy, there are definitely some forms of exercise which work particularly well for the pregnant body. It is important to introduce a mixture of cardiovascular exercise with resistance and deep abdominal work. The former will help give you the stamina needed to get through your nine month journey, especially towards the end when you are carrying around a heavy baby day in day out. If you have been a regular exerciser pre-pregnancy, and as long as all is going well, there is no reason why you cannot carry on during the first trimester with the exercise that you normally do, although it is important to not get too breathless, too hot or to push yourself when your body is crying out for a rest. Be kind and gentle to yourself.

Power walking is an ideal form of exercise during pregnancy and if you spend a lot of time seated at a desk, it will help ease off tightness in the lower back. So how about going for a 20 minute walk in your lunch break every day? Having said this a significant proportion of mums-to-be suffer from pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy and if you are one them, then walking will need to be dropped in favour of other forms of exercise, such as aquanatal.

Water-based exercise is fantastic when you are expecting, especially as you get towards the end of pregnancy when the sheer weight of your bump will leave you feeling tired and depleted. Try aquanatal with a trained specialist in pregnancy exercise or if you can’t find a local expert, swimming is a great alternative. Again, if you are suffering from pelvic girdle pain, be sure to modify your swimming accordingly: breaststroke is to be avoided at all costs but front crawl should be fine for you.

Last but most certainly not least, make time for a weekly dose of tailored pregnancy Pilates. This will help to protect your back by keeping the deepest layer of abdominals toned. Doing just one pregnancy Pilates class a week or even 5 minutes of Pilates moves every day will be enough to keep you free of many of the aches and pains that accompany pregnancy. Be sure to go to a class that is designed specifically for the antenatal period as standard Pilates is not appropriate for pregnancy. If the pregnancy Pilates you do includes postural work, then all the better – posture is greatly affected by pregnancy.

In short, a “pregnancy fitness portfolio” that contains a good mix of exercise to give you stamina – whether it be walking, swimming or aquanatal – and exercise to help keep your back strong and niggle-free, will get your ready and fit for birth.

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